The Dissolve’s Tasha Robinson writes up a brilliant piece about female characters in films who are supposed to be “strong” but who, in the end, really are just your usual backseat babe, making the world easier for the male hero to swoop in and save the day. Most of the films aimed at young people and the male demographic that Hollywood believes dominates the box office feature this dynamic.
Writing strong female characters does not mean always making them “good.” Emily Blunt and Meryl Streep are both strong female characters in The Devil Wears Prada, for instance, and neither of them are “good.” What Robinson is addressing isn’t the status quo: women hardly ever exist in films at all unless it’s to provide support to the male characters. She’s writing about this new trend of pretending you have a strong female in the film when it turns out, in the end, she isn’t. You can test this by imagining those supporting characters actually in the lead. Imagine how much better The Edge of Tomorrow would have been with Emily Blunt in the lead. They set her up as a fighting machine, an expert monster killer. But in the end, we never see her do any of that because he’s the better fighter, ultimately, and the one she defers to again and again. We are an audience that has evolved enough to accept a movie with a woman in the lead being the badass who wins the day. We can totally go there. We all watch Game of Thrones and Hunger Games, with no problem. But for some reason, it is assumed that a movie like this can only get made if there is a central male figure in the lead.